Low carbon in the National Capital Region’s buildings

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)

Learn how the Energy Services Acquisition Program (ESAP) plans to help the government meet its goal of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in its own operations by 40% by 2025.

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About the Energy Services Acquisition Program

Eighty buildings in Ottawa, including the Parliament Buildings, are served by the ESAP district energy system. The current heating and cooling system was built between 50 and 100 years ago and is out-of-date. The system connects to 5 central plants using more than 14 kilometers of underground piping. The system provides heating by steam and hot water and cooling by chilled water. Many of its parts are becoming unusable. In the same way that you might replace an old furnace in your home with a more energy-efficient model, we are modernizing the system to cut GHG and save money. Operations and maintenance of the district energy system will continue through 2055.

Video: Energy Services Acquisition Program

Transcript: Energy Services Acquisition Program

Video length: 1:24 minutes

Start of a clip

(On screen a graphic image of the bars and leaf of a Canadian flag changing from red to green.)

Text displayed: The Government of Canada is greening.

(A graph showing greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the vertical axis and years on the horizontal axis, with markings for the years 2005, 2025 and 2030. A jagged line moves down from the top left to the bottom right.)

Text displayed: We’re cutting greenhouse gases (GHGs) from federal operations by 40% by 2030 at the latest.

(A cityscape with a cluster of high-rise buildings including the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings and an industrial-type building representing a central heating and cooling plant. In front of the buildings is a road with several vehicles moving along in both directions. Below the road red and blue lines, with arrows pointing and moving upwards, represent pipes that circulate water and steam.)

Text displayed: One major project that will get us there is the modernization of the network of plants that heat and cool 80 buildings in the capital.

(Columns of cars build one by one, 5 cars in the first column, 6 in the second and 7 in the third.)

Text displayed: Stage 1: Modernization - These changes will be the equivalent of taking 14,000 cars off the road.

(A thermometer showing red to the top at first and then falling as a counter shows a reduction from 195 to 70 degrees Celsius, with the numbers dropping alongside the red line.)

Text displayed: This includes: Using lower temperature water instead of steam.

(An electrical plug with a green cord that goes down and then around the plug, turning into a leaf as it becomes a full circle.)

Text displayed: This includes: Switching from steam to electric chillers.

(A five-story building connected by an arrow to a circle with a leaf in it.)

Text displayed: This includes: Implementing Smart Buildings.

(On screen are three windmills and then a tractor drives across from left to right as 3 trees appear behind it, each shedding a few leaves.)

Text displayed: Our vision is to switch to low carbon energy sources.

(High rise buildings pop up one-by-one into a cluster of 15.)

Text displayed: And to increase the number of buildings on the new system.

(The same columns of cars seen earlier reappear and then shrink as 5 more columns appear to the right, each higher than the last, with the last column having 12 cars.)

Text displayed: Eventually, the total reduction in GHGs could be the equivalent of taking 60,000 cars off the road.

(A bar graph shows a column headed “Energy usage” going down while a column headed “Cost savings” goes up.)

Text displayed: Using less energy will also generate annual cost savings.

(A yellow construction hat appears on the right of the screen, and three buildings under construction and a crane appear on top of it.)

Text displayed: Construction will start in 2020 and will be completed in 2025.

(Energy Services Acquisition Program)

Text displayed: For more information contact us at Canada.ca/greening-government

(Canada wordmark)

(Public Services and Procurement Canada departmental signature)

End of clip

Infographic: How district energy works

Energy Services Acquisition Program: How district energy works. See image description below
Image description

The infographic title is Energy Services Acquisition Program: How District Energy Works. It depicts a cityscape, with a cluster of high-rise buildings including the Centre Block, one of Canada’s Parliament Buildings. On the far left is an industrial type building with steam coming out of chimneys, representing a central heating and cooling plant.

In front of the buildings is a road with several vehicles. Below the road are lines underground showing how the heating and cooling plant is connected to the buildings through red and blue lines, with arrows pointing up. The lines represent pipes that circulate hot water, steam, and chilled water.

Three blocks of text are shown above the buildings:

A district energy system is a set of central plants that heats buildings with hot water or steam and cools buildings with chilled water. They are used all over the world.

This uses less energy and is more efficient than having equipment in each individual building.

The government district energy system in Ottawa heats 80 buildings and cools 67 buildings, including the Parliament Buildings.

One block of text is shown below ground on the lines representing pipes:

The water circulates through underground pipes connected in a loop.

At the bottom of the page, there is a quote from the United Nations Environmental Program report, District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:

“… modern district energy systems in cities is one of the least-cost and most efficient solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy demand.”

How we will modernize

ESAP will modernize the central heating and cooling plants (CHCPs) that heat and cool federal and non-federal buildings in the National Capital Region (NCR). The program to modernize the CHCPs will be completed in 2 stages.

Stage 1: Installing modern technologies

Modern technologies will make the plants safer and more energy efficient. The actions below, combined with past projects, will reduce GHG from buildings connected to the District Energy System (DES) by about 63% compared to 2005 baseline emission levels.

Converting to low-temperature hot water

The current system provides heat by steam and hot water. We will convert the plants from using the high temperature steam system to using a more energy-efficient low temperature hot water (LTHW) system. The new system will use less energy and produce fewer GHGs. Instead of circulating steam through the pipes, the system will use low-temperature hot water to heat the buildings connected to the network. This is safer and more efficient.

Switching to electric chillers

The Ottawa River will help chill the water which will cool buildings connected to the network. This is a more sustainable alternative to the current system.

Installing Smart Building technology

We will use Smart buildings initiative technology to find ways to produce energy more efficiently.

Results of stage 1

By the end of Stage 1, all connected buildings will be converted to accept the new DES technology. The Cliff, Tunney’s Pasture and National Printing Bureau plants will be newly built, and the Confederation Heights plant will be renovated. The National Research Council plant will be decommissioned.

Timeline: From 2019 to 2025

Infographic: Central heating and cooling plant locations in Ottawa

Map of the locations of the heating and cooling plants. See image description below.
Image description

Map of the National Capital Region highlighting the location of the 5 central heating and cooling plants. This includes the National Printing Bureau in Gatineau and the following plants in Ottawa: Cliff, Tunney’s Pasture, National Research Council, and Confederation Heights.

Learn more about the central heating and cooling plants and how we are modernizing them through ESAP.

Stage 2: Deeper Greening: Using alternative sources of energy for the future

In this stage, we are exploring replacing natural gas base load, which is the amount of heating required for most days, with low-carbon fuel sources such as:

  • Clean electricity
  • Renewable natural gas
  • Electric boilers (non-GHG emitting sources)
  • River water pump (using water from the Ottawa River to assist in the cooling process)
  • Waste heat recovered from chillers
  • Geo exchange (using the ground like a battery to store heat in the summer so that it can be used in the winter)

Use of these sources is expected to reduce GHG by an additional 28%. We will carry out additional work under the User Building Conversion Plan (UBCP) to ensure that buildings are ready to connect to the modernized system.

Timeline: From 2021 to 2030

Milestones achieved

Next steps

Photo gallery

Click on the image to view a larger version.

Benefits to Canadians

We are committed to reducing GHG emissions and to lead by example by greening our own operations. ESAP will modernize the district energy system that heats and cools several federal and non-federal buildings. This will in turn reduce GHG, save money and improve overall safety.

By modernizing this system, we will contribute to climate change commitments by transitioning to a low-carbon economy and by stimulating the clean technology sector.

Contract details

We signed anagreement with Innovate Energy, a public-private partnership for the modernization of the DES in the NCR.
Innovate Energy is a consortium of partners working on the project. Partners include:

The engineering professional services firm WSP is participating as well as bbb architects.

$1.1 billion to design and build
$1.5 billion for maintenance
Total Value
$2.6 billion
2019 to 2055
Project status
In progress

News about the program

Related links

More information

Contact Real Property

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